Government tries to reduce unemployment line
THE government yesterday announced a €300 million stimulus package aimed at creating jobs and boosting the construction, housing and energy sectors.
The package, approved by the cabinet yesterday, will be funded by the proceeds of the second hydrocarbon licensing round and the European Investment Bank.
“It includes programmes to improve the potential of unemployed people to find work … (and) assistance to small and medium businesses (SMEs), the backbone of the Cypriot economy,” which are suffering due to lack of funding from banks, government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said.
The package is also aimed at boosting construction, renewable energy sources, research and education.
The largest chunk, around €200 million will be funded by the proceeds the state expects to make from the second licensing round for offshore hydrocarbon exploration.
Some €100 million will also be secured from the European Investment Bank to support SMEs.
Stefanou said the government wants to roll out the measures as soon as possible.
In June, Cyprus became the fifth country in the 17-nation eurozone to seek international aid, when its banks needed state support to cover massive losses on their exposure to debt-crippled Greece.
Cyprus is in the process of ironing out an adjustment programme with its international lenders, the troika, who had submitted their recommendations at the end of July.
The government has since prepared its own counter-proposals and had said it would also draft measures aimed at boosting growth.
Stefanou said the troika programme effectively lacked stimulus measures.
The package will be given to the parties today, ahead of a meeting with the government on Monday.
The spokesman said no date has been set yet for negotiations to start with the troika.
“But we want to conclude as soon as possible and I emphasise that we can close the discussion and negotiation as soon as possible,” Stefanou said.
President Demetris Christofias will be meeting trade unions on Friday, as disagreements persist on reforming the wage indexation system CoLA.
Stefanou said if there is an agreement on CoLA, it would have a better chance of being accepted by the troika, which has proposed its abolishment.
However, an agreement on CoLA did not look likely yesterday, after employer organisations OEV and KEVE rejected a labour ministry proposal.
The two organisations decided that CoLA payments must be frozen for the duration of the adjustment period – expected to take between three and five years.
After that, payments should be made once a year, rather than twice, and any readjustment must be linked to an increase in productivity, growth and competitiveness.
“If there is no economic growth in the preceding year, the readjustment will not be made,” OEV and KEVE said.